Photo of Inty Grønneberg

Energy & sustainability

Inty Grønneberg

Plastic pollution has a new enemy: turbines capable of collecting up to 80 tons of plastic a day in rivers

Year Honored


Latin America

Hails From

Our seas and oceans have become a big garbage dump that people use to throw big quantities of plastic waste that accumulate and impact the life of aquatic fauna. Even if someone deposits a plastic bottle in the appropriate recycling container, it can end up in the sea, whole or crushed into an infinity of tiny fragments, by the action of wind and rain. Although awareness about this huge problem is increasing, to completely eliminate single-use plastics is a "complicated and long-term challenge," Inty Grønneberg states. "It is estimated that the use of disposable plastics could end by the year 2035, but before then, by 2025 the amount of plastic used will have tripled compared to the current level," he warns.

Given the severity of the problem, this young Ecuadorian of Norwegian descent, who resides in the United Kingdom, is committed to take action and to start collecting plastic waste from the water before it reaches the sea. For this reason, he has created Ichthion (formerly Remora Marine), a company that develops several types of turbines capable of filtering and collecting plastics of different sizes present in bodies of water to prevent them from ending up in the oceans. For this reason, Grønneberg has become one of the Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018 of MIT Technology Review.

"The problem is the lack of recycling technologies in less developed areas of Asia. This is the reason why there are so many plastics that go from landfills to rivers and from there to the sea," the inventor explains. However, he proposes a solution: turbines that can be installed on board the boats that travel through these rivers so that while they carry out their usual tasks, they collect the plastic waste present in the waterway. "The idea is that, hopefully, it will not be necessary to develop specific infrastructures, but rather to take advantage of the maximum number of existing vessels possible," he concludes.

Unlike a passive filter, Ichthion designs obtain energy from the flow of water that passes through the turbine. This energy is used to extract the plastic waste from the filters and accumulate it. This allows it to increase its efficiency in the collection of waste. In fact, the company's Azure model is able to collect up to 80 tons per day. Until now, the most efficient systems were only able to collect about seven tons a day. "In a river, Azure could supply a whole recycling plant, which would make its construction viable in places where current conditions do not allow it," the young inventor points out.

The director of the Department of Air Conditioning, Heating, Gas Supply and Air Protection at Wrocław University of Science and Technology (Poland), Renata Krzyzynska, member of the jury of Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018, declares herself "impressed" and states that Grønneberg offers "a unique solution to a serious environmental problem."